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Scientists restore vision in blind mice using gold and titanium nanowire arrays

A new study from scientists in China suggests that medical devices could one day restore vision to the blind.

Researchers developed artificial photoreceptors based on gold nanoparticle-decorated titania nanowire arrays to restore visual responses in the blind mice.


A team of scientists in China just took a big step toward developing technology that could one day restore vision to the blind.

Researchers at Fudan University and the University of Science and Technology of China recently published a paper in the journal Nature Communications that outlines how they used artificial photoreceptors to restore vision to blind mice.

Photoreceptors are structures that translate light into neural signals for the brain. They’re able to do this because they contain chemicals that change when hit with photons, which produces an electrical signal that’s sent to the brain along the optic nerve.

For the study, the team genetically engineered a group of mice to develop progressively degraded photoreceptors, similar to eye diseases like retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration in humans. This left the mice’s eyes and visual processing systems intact but rendered visual signals unable to reach the brain.

 This illustration from the paper shows, from left to right, an eye, a retina with healthy photoreceptors, and a retina with a nanowire array.

Researchers then replaced the degraded photoreceptors with artificial ones made from tiny nanowire that was “decorated” with gold nanoparticles. This material was chosen by researchers because of its “high surface areas, large charge transport mobility, excellent biocompatibility and stability.”

Like natural photoreceptors, these nanowire arrays were placed in physical contact with retinal cells and were able to transport electrical impulses to the visual cortex. The team verified this by measuring activity in the mice’s visual cortexes after shining light onto their eyes, and by observing dilation in their pupils.

Compared to mice in the control group, the once-blind mice were able to respond to light of similar intensity, though their artificial photoreceptors could only sense green, blue and light near ultraviolet spectrum. Of course, it’s impossible to say for sure what the mice were seeing.

The technique used in the study was experimental, and even if it’s proven to be safe and effective for humans, it’ll take years before it’s available to the wider public. Still, the results suggest hope for the idea that medical devices may one day restore vision to people for whom it’s slipped away.


Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

Credit: Neom
Technology & Innovation
  • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
  • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
  • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
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Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

Videos
  • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
  • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
  • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

COVID-19 brain study to explore long-term effects of the virus

A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.

Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.

Coronavirus
  • The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
  • Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
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Better reskilling can future-proof jobs in the age of automation. Enter SkillUp's new coalition.

Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.

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